Pausing Between Steps
Have you heard the advice about taking a break between steps in the writing process? As with many things when it comes to matters of art making, there are multiple schools of thought on the practice. Some say it's a waste of time. Others say it's essential. Some prefer short breaks or "pauses," and others believe anything less than months at a time is the same as just plowing through.
Personally, I hold to the pause method. One, just because that's the way I've always worked on an instinctual level, but also because I've learned I need those pauses to produce better work.
The mind is an interesting thing. We have software features like autocorrect now, but it's a functionality our minds have always possessed. This is why we can read over typos and mistakes. It's why we find familiar images in random things. Our minds are always trying to make sense of what is around us, and this can work both to our benefit and detriment, depending on the circumstance.
For artists, this can mean you might overlook mistakes immediately after finishing a step because you know your intention. Taking a break or pause away from the piece gives you a chance to "reboot" your mind and come back with a clearer view.
I spoke a couple of weeks ago about the frustration I've been feeling as I keep working on Icarus. I know there are some major issues and mistakes in the rough draft, which is to be expected. It is a rough draft, after all. Yet, I also know, if I don't keep going and finish the rough before I start a second draft, there will inevitably be mistakes and issues in the last few chapters. So, I need to wait until the rough is finished before starting the rewrites.
That's not all though. Even though I know a few issues, if I take a couple of weeks to a month between finishing the rough and starting the rewrites, I know I'll find more. I also know, the more issues get flagged before rewrites start, the fewer problems there will be with the second draft. So no matter how badly I want to rush, rush, rush to get The Icarus Project done and "on shelves," I know doing so is a way to insure it'd be a book I'd be ashamed to have published. So I'm going to take a break between all the steps from now to publication to make sure this mental autocorrect doesn't mangle the end product like its technological analog can mangle text messages.
Does this mean I'm just going to sit around doing nothing during those breaks?
No, it doesn't. Depending on what all is going on with the store, the school year, and my writing que, what I'm up to varies, but the pauses aren't times of being idle. April and May are my busiest soaping months as the new year's lines are designed, prototyped, and manufactured for Contented Comfort. So, I might spend several hours a day soaping and then some other time planning, outlining, editing, or roughing out other books, short stories, or collections.
C. L., the girls, and I went to visit C. L.'s extended family in Georgia during spring break last week. You might notice the rough draft progress bar for Icarus didn't move much during last week. But what about the status bar for prewriting and outlining the next Yekara novel? That one jumped from one percent to twenty. I didn't want to lug a computer around with me on the trip, but I did take my copy of Right of Succession, a notebook, several highlighters, and pens. Seeing as I slacked a bit when it came to keeping notes in that last push to finish RoS, I spent spring break going back through the book almost three years after publishing it. I highlighted key bits of world building, characterization, dialogue, and plot points that will be referenced back to in subsequent novels in the Yekara series, made notes on where certain bits of information were, notes about new characters and bits of information not in my Yekara world book just yet, and scribbled down ideas for things to occur in the next novel.
It might not seem like much of anything important got done. It certainly doesn't look like much on paper yet. However, refreshing my memory on what occurred during the first book after a long break, writing other stories in a different style and genre, triggered ideas for what needs to follow I never would have had without that break and shift. And those notes will not only help keep continuity between books, but it'll slash the amount of time spent going back and looking for needed information when memory inevitably fails.
Plus, now when I go back to Icarus today, I'll be refreshed and have new ideas for difficulties to throw at my characters after the eventful break.
So where do you stand in this debate? Do you pause, take long breaks, or do you just keep trucking through brainstorming to publication? I'd love to hear your perspectives and how your method works for you.
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A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
77384 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Series Book 2
Sketched w/ Some Drafting
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4